How does one sum up the trajectory-shifting influence a single gospel-focused mentor can have on your life? How does one sum up a mentor whose aim is to point you to Christ, the one through whom the entire universe was spoken into existence, the one through whom redemption came and the entire cosmos would one day be made right again?
How does one sum up a person who points others to Christ through the scriptures, the content of which was articulated over the ages by modern giants of the faith, resting on the shoulders of other giants of the faith through church history, going all the way back to the Apostles? How does one sum up a man whose aim was to bring you the gospel, not merely for salvation, but growth in the faith? It is indeed an inestimable gift, a rare jewel.
Today marks ten years since the passing of David Phillips, a man who was one of those mentors for me and a vast number of other students and leaders over the years in Young Life, Christ Chapel Student Ministries, and elsewhere. I would be lying if I said I don’t weep at times when thinking about him at my desk at work or at lunch by myself on cold, dreary February days. Then again, if you ask my wife, I’m the crier of the two of us. But regardless, to this day, I still see his influence and markings all over my life and miss him immensely. And the thought of his passing still resonates.
I remember that day well. Knowing it was icy that Sunday morning, Courtney and I decided to sleep-in. We received a call from a friend of ours at around 11 am saying, “Tell me it isn’t true … did Dave die in a car wreck this morning?” At that point, I already felt the wave of sorrow over me. It was then we began calling around and confirmed Dave never showed up at church that morning to preach in the main service. Dave had died coming in to Fort Worth from Aledo in a rollover accident. Being the eccentric, adventurous, crazy driver he was, he wasn’t wearing his seat belt. He lost to the risk. Oddly enough the sermon was going to be on anxiety and suffering which turned out to be exactly what we all needed to hear. Here are his notes that he happened to post online (for the first and last time) the Friday before.
There are so many things I learned from Dave. It would be hard to sum up here: the law and gospel expressed in the Reformed faith, justification, sanctification, predestination (what a gem this is for your faith!), Five Solas, Calvinism, idolatry, living the Christian life in light of the gospel, Christ and culture, on and on I could go.
But fundamentally, the core thing I learned from Dave, that he articulated repeatedly, was delighting yourself in the presence of Christ. The scriptures, giving us the gospel communicated through Reformed theology was the means unto that end. This was the main thing he wanted for everyone he knew. Even with Dave’s shortcomings and occasional abrasive personality traits (that rubbed me the wrong way not just a few times 😉 ), at the heart of it, Dave wanted the best for the church and those outside the church to taste and see that the Lord is good.
Dave, I love and miss you and am grateful to Christ for the years the Lord blessed so many of us with.
Blog post from that day: http://www.davidwesterfield.net/2006/02/david-phillips-life-stage-1-pastor-ccbc-has-passed-away/